I think there should be, I don’t know, affordability checks or something. Just something so they know you’re not spending ridiculously more than you can afford because if you want to take a loan out, they check that you can afford it but yet you can go and gamble a grand and a half in a week and no one bats an eyelid really. Or just the maximum deposit limit could be X amount a week for everybody regardless across everything.
There’s nothing to stop you. The only time I’d ever been contacted from one of the companies that I’d used for betting is, I think I’ve probably spent– I’d deposited about £1,000 in a night and they sent an email saying, “We’ve noticed you’ve deposited a lot, are you happy with the amount you’ve deposited?” I just replied and put, “Yes”, and then they unblocked the account. Imagine if I spent that every day, it would be unbelievable, but yes, it’s just like once you get started, it’s like, oh I’ll just play for half an hour with 20 quid just to get myself tired and ready for sleep or whatever, and then before you know it, five hours has gone. It’s crazy because you’re not, you don’t realize that you’re passing money over and you get the little pop-ups that say, “You’ve been playing for an hour, do you want to carry on?” “Yes, of course, I do.” I’m not going to say no, of course, I want to carry on. You literally just carry on until there’s nothing left, and you can’t play anymore.
You don’t really think of anything else, your brain doesn’t go, “Oh, I’ll find something else to do” because it’s so easily accessible. It’s just there. Whether it’s nine o’clock in the morning, ten o’clock at night, two o’clock in the morning. If you are awake, it’s there on your phone. I mean, I’ve sat in the bath playing slots before, and there’s no escaping from it because you don’t want to leave your phone in case you get a phone call or a text so you’ve got your phone and it’s just there constantly.
It’s a very solitary thing. It’s the thing when you don’t want other people to know you’re doing it. I suppose it’s like the embarrassment side of it that you sit there for three hours doing it. You go in a different room or you’ll go and have a bath… No one knows that you’re sitting on your phone playing slot machines, they just think you’re having a bath. I think if I had to stand somewhere and put that much money into a slot machine, I’d be really conscious that everyone would know how long I’ve been standing there and how much money I’ve spent.
I always picked the ones that had free spins and bonuses and the most win lines. Always. If it had 100-win lines, that’s what I was playing.
Because [sports betting] was boring. It sounds really stupid. You’ve got to wait. You can put a bet on and you’ve got to wait and you sit and wait, and wait, and wait. With online slots, it’s that instant-instant satisfaction is press it, what happens? Press it, what happens? I think it was like two and a half seconds between spins now they’ve changed it to. It’s stupid. It’s like two and a half seconds. If you’re betting £10 every time you spin, it’s still like £300. You can literally just sit there and just keep pressing and pressing and pressing and you watch the lights and the noise and just wait for it. It’s lovely but evil at the same time.
They’re not helpful. Say for instance, 30 free spins if you sign up. Brilliant, I’ll sign up, but I won’t deposit. You know you’re going to. Then you’ve got another five accounts before you know it. Even if you put a £20 limit a week on each of them, you can still spend £200 a week and each person only thinks you’re spending 20 quid, but you’ve got so many different accounts you’re not. That makes it a lot harder because I know a lot of them are linked now. They link the deposit limits, but you can still get around it and just spend what you like.
I said to my counsellor the other day, gambling, the only way I can describe it is your best friend who turns out to be an asshole who stabbed you in the back. The only way I can describe it, is your best friend while they’re there and takes your mind off everything else and then you look back and go, no, wasn’t my friend at all, it was horrible.
If it was a mental health problem, you’d tell somebody you didn’t think anything of it. I think it should be seen the way that mental health is, because years ago, people wouldn’t talk about that and I think gambling needs to go along the same path because a lot more people would then be able to get the help that they need and probably want but don’t feel like they can ask for.
My stepdad had come around, and he was like, “Well, something’s up. It’s obviously not drinking, it’s not drugs, because I know that, I can tell by the way you are, there’s something else. Have you been gambling?” I just went, “Yes, a little bit.” I didn’t say how much, how long, how often or anything and he’s like, “Well, you should go to GA.” That’s when I joined GA, and it was the best thing ever. Literally, it’s been the best thing ever… He said that because I think, him in his personal life, he’d had addiction issues in the past. He’s done this 12-step programme and everything like that.
But GA, even before I did it, I thought I’m going to walk in that room there’s just going to be little old blokes sitting there. There’s just going to be loads of old men that go to the bookies and that’s it, but it’s not like that at all. It’s really not. I think it’s because it’s something that’s not talked about very often and you do just have that perception that it’s just going to be old blokes there about 70, that go in the bookies too much and their wives have made them go.
Talk about it to somebody, anybody. Just talk about it and acknowledge it because it’s easy to hide it. It’s really easy to hide it because if you gamble during the night, no one’s going to know. I think it gets to the point where it’s gone too far before you realize that it’s gone too far because it doesn’t affect your body as such. It doesn’t show to other people.
It is a denial because in your head, you just pass it off as, well it’s just a little thing I do for fun and it’s not affecting anybody. It’s not bad. It’s like justifying when you lose money that you’ve won so well, it wasn’t mine to start with so that doesn’t matter, but it does matter because you could have paid your mortgage with that money, but you’ve just spent it. I think the problem is as well, because it’s online, you’re just pressing a button and you’re not handing over the money, you don’t see how much money you’re passing over until you go to deposit and then you’ve got none left and it’s like, oh it’s all gone.
I would sit there and I’d spend £600 a night just going if I put another £50 on, I can win it back, it’s fine. It doesn’t matter, no one will know. You’re just constantly, even though at the time you don’t see it that you’re chasing the loss you are. Even if there were times where I’d win a lot of money, I’d then gamble what I’d won because I’ll justify it by thinking, well, it wasn’t mine to begin with, I’m not losing money that was mine. It’s always that hope that you can do better, you can do a bit more just a bit more and never comes.
It made me avoid dealing with the issues that I had to deal with. It was a mask for me and it was like, well, for six hours of my day that I’d lose during, well, not during the day, during the night I’d feel normal. I wouldn’t feel stressed and it’s like, oh, that’s fine, then I don’t need to worry about being depressed or anything like that and it caused me to spend too much money. It is the kind of ups and downs because you feel really happy but then you feel quite sad about it. It doesn’t help any mental health problems at all, even though you think it does at the time.
It was like an escape to go bingo. I’d end up going there three times a week, four times a week. To start with, it was just like, I’ll just buy the books and do the books but then you have the pound games at the side of the table, and you just sit there put in the pounds and put in the pounds. I think at one point I was probably spending, god knows how much, probably £400 a week, just going to bingo… And then I found online slots and online bingo and that is awful. It’s lovely if you can control how you use it, but it’s really difficult to control how you use it.
I tend to gamble a lot more when I’m not happy… But it came to a head when I moved and I’d split up with my partner at the beginning of COVID and we’d been together for nearly 11 years. We separated and then I’d started gambling again and it would be because I suffer from insomnia anyway and it was I wasn’t sleeping… That was something that was always there and [gambling] was an escape. Shut yourself off from the world and just live in this little bubble of slot machines… Then when I moved and it was Christmas and I didn’t know anyone, I couldn’t just go and see people that I knew, I was literally stuck at home, really depressed by this point because I hadn’t particularly really wanted to move anyway, I was moving to be closer to my parents.
We sit at home with the kids. A lot of time, we can’t go out. You can talk to people on there, you can have a bit of fun, what you think is fun, and it’s having a life, that even though you’re not leaving the home, you still at home, you still looking after your kids and things, but you have a bit of a social life and fun.
Just talk about it and acknowledge it because it’s easy to hide it. It’s really easy to hide it because if you gamble during the night, no one’s going to know. I think it gets to the point where it’s gone too far before you realize that it’s gone too far because it doesn’t affect your body as such. It doesn’t show to other people. You’re still the same person, but you’ve got so much going on in your head when you’re thinking about gambling and knowing that you should stop and then the financial side of things and then how it impacts your family unit at home.
It should be something that is more well-known because you’ve obviously you’ve got AA and things like that for people that have got other addictions, but GA, even I did it before when I thought I’m going to walk in that room there’s just going to be little old blokes sitting there… but it’s not like that at all. It’s really not… If you go in the doctors, you’ll always see signs for drug treatment and alcohol addiction, but you never see one for gambling problems. I think for it to be more known about and more easily accessible because you don’t know it’s there unless you Google it.
Well, we run the business together because it’s a family business. I still had to work for them and like things will work they got a bit arsey about and it was like, Oh, everything that’s gone wrong was because of your gambling because your mind’s not been on it and you’ve been distracted and this and that. It got to the point where I thought, “Do you know what? I don’t care. Whatever you want to say, I’m not listening anymore. You can use that as an excuse for everything it’s not my problem.”
But it was like, “We’re moving here we don’t want to be around you; you need to sort out yourself.” I was like, “Fair enough.” Then they were like, “Oh, and we’ve changed the will because if anything happens to us, you won’t be able to manage.” I was like, “That was really unnecessary. Even if you had done that, keep it to yourself. I don’t need to know.” It was just, “How many times can you kick me when I’m down?”
I’ve started to do things for me now, whereas I wouldn’t go out or do anything, and the last couple of weekends, I’ve gone for a night out by myself, which is really sad, but I have. I’ve sat there and there’ve been the slot machines there and I looked over and went, “No, thanks” and carried on with my night, whereas before I’d be like, “I’ll get some change and go and stand there for a little while”. My son said to me on Sunday, he’s like, “I’m so glad just to see you happy and living your life again” and I was like, “Thanks”.
I’ve only had my first [counselling] session because I had to do three months at GA first. I’ve had my first session, but that was really good, and I found that really helpful because I think that way you get to address a lot of the underlying issues because you’ve got the gambling at the top, but then it’s everything underneath that you’ve just covered up with the gambling.
I was driving [to GA] and I wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time anyway. I was like maybe I just won’t go in; I’ll just pretend. I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done because everyone’s so lovely. They’re so nice. They’re not judgey, and they make you feel welcome and everyone’s in the same boat. Obviously, there’s different degrees of how it’s affected you and things like that, but you’re all in the same situation. When I’ve spoken to everybody there, because I’ve made quite good friends there and it’s so surreal how our lives are so similar.
My stepdad had come around, and he was like, “Well, something’s up. It’s obviously not drinking, it’s not drugs, because I know that, I can tell by the way you are, there’s something else. Have you been gambling?” I just went, “Yes, a little bit.” I didn’t say how much, how long, how often or anything and he’s like, “Well, you should go to GA.” That’s when I joined GA, and it was the best thing ever. Literally, it’s been the best thing ever.